Conversations with history

Christine Borland, Family Conversation Piece, 1998

The skull is a powerful symbol. While others have used real skulls as the basis for drawing, sculpture or installation, Christine Borland has used skulls as a starting point for making works in other materials. The skulls in Christine Borland’s Family Conversation Piece are made from fine bone china which is then traditionally decorated in blue and white. The work was originally made for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, so the choice of bone china was a deliberate one intended to resonate with Liverpool’s history as a producer of china with the decoration – in the style of the porcelain made in Liverpool in the eighteenth century – also referencing the city’s history as a trading port involved in the shipping of both produce and slaves.

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Art bling

Damien Hirst, For the Love of God, 2007

The Damien Hirst exhibition at Tate Modern offers both a welcome(ish) chance to revisit Hirst’s early work and be reminded that he did start out by making some genuinely challenging and interesting work and a less welcome opportunity to see some of the most extreme art bling one is ever likely to encounter. Most obviously, there’s that skull. For the Love of God has generated so much press it’s not really possible to be all that surprised by it. Nonetheless, it’s a strange experience.

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